Force must defy Payne barrier
BEFORE heading south and returning to Queensland, Nadeen Payne was one of Ipswich's most popular state league basketballers.
She has fond memories of her two seasons with the Ipswich Force program.
"That's why I've had nothing bad to say about Ipswich and the association,'' Payne said.
"They were great to me while I was there and I had a great experience.
"I always felt very welcome by the Force.''
However, Payne and another former Force favourite Emma Langford will be on the opposing team in tonight's Queensland Basketball League quarter-final at Ipswich stadium.
Payne, 22, and Langford, 26, have continued their powerful partnership for the Northside Wizards this season.
While former South Australian Langford has played 11 state league games after a late start, Payne has managed to line up in all 17 matches after she too came back from injury.
Townsville-born Payne was out for 10 months after tearing the ACL in her left knee. That came after she played in the SEABL competition in Melbourne and Tasmania.
However, preparing for tonight's final, Payne is confident she's getting back to her best.
She's also signed for SEQ in the new women's national league competition starting next month.
"Coming off an ACL injury, I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself but I'm really happy with how I have played this season,'' the power forward/centre said.
"It's like I'm back to normal if not better.''
After the state league finals, Payne will reunite in SEQ national league games with Ipswich Force head coach Brad George.
"Brad is the assistant coach there too so that's a very positive step,'' Payne said.
Force's 2015 recruit Bree Farley is also in the SEQ team with Payne, setting up some exciting court battles tonight.
The quarter-final duel will be the first time Payne has played in Ipswich since leaving the Force after the 2013 season.
"I'm really looking forward to coming back to Ipswich and playing,'' Payne said.
She said the Wizards gained confidence having beaten Ipswich 95-83 in their previous clash in Brisbane on August 1.
"For us, it's momentum and coming together as a team,'' Payne said. "We've only just got all our players back.
"Getting the consistency of playing with each other, I think it's the right time for us.''
Payne rates American imports Chelsie Schweers and Brandi Brown, and national league teammate Farley as three Force players Northside must contain.
She said the Wizards had watched tape of Force's strengths and needed to replicate what they achieved in their previous victory over Ipswich.
However, George expected his team to be focused, respecting the quality of former Force players Payne and Langford.
"I know their traits pretty well. I know what they are like and what their weaknesses are,'' George said.
"They are good girls. It should be a good game.
"It's whoever turns up with the most intensity and effort gets the win.''
Teams hope to maintain state league finals record
HAVING made state league playoffs the past five years, the Ipswich Force women are expected to win tonight's quarter-final at Booval.
Force have reached semi-finals and a grand final in recent seasons. However, head coach Brad George is maintaining his usual calm approach as his team prepares for its 6.30pm home court battle with Northside. "There's no real pressure,'' he said. "Our consistency has been up and down in patches but it's a new group.
"The losses we had, we learnt a lot from so you develop.
"We've got the talent there.''
The team trained well on Thursday night with no injury worries after a comfortable lead-up weekend where they beat South West and Toowoomba.
The Ipswich Force men are off to Brisbane tonight for their do-or-die quarter-final showdown with the Capitals.
Head coach Mick Conlon was giving a number of injured players - including captain Zarryon Fereti, Jason Ralph and Kyle Harvey - until early tonight to prove their fitness.
The Force men also made the semi-final last year.
- QBL women: Third qualifying final tonight (6.30pm) - Ipswich Force v Northside at Ipswich stadium. The Force women finished fifth overall (on percentages) with 12 wins and five losses behind Rockhampton (14 wins, three losses), Gladstone (13-4), Mackay (12-5) and Townsville (12-5). Northside were seventh overall.
- QBL men: Second qualifying final tonight (8pm) - Ipswich Force (7th) v Brisbane Capitals (2nd) at Auchenflower.